The spring installment of the Hastings College Invited Faculty Lecture Series featured Dr. Pedro José Vizoso, an assistant professor of Spanish at HC. The presentation was held in the French Memorial Chapel Monday, Feb. 13, where he discussed his experiences as a language teacher and his perceptions on the future of humanities in the United States.
Vizoso’s lecture, titled “Confessions of a Foreign Language Teacher,” inspected political and personal issues in the United States from the perspective of a foreigner.
Before moving to the U.S. in 2004, Vizoso lived in Switzerland, Venezuela and Spain. His earliest memories of the U.S. are movies and television.
“I perfectly remember me as a child … sitting on the floor of my living room and watching, in black and white, the Yogi Bear show,” Vizoso said.
As a young man, he began to read American literature through Spanish translations. The positive messages conveyed in that literature eventually motivated Vizoso to pursue higher education in the U.S. at New Mexico State University.
“I manifested to my family and friends that I was going to study (in the U.S.). Everybody was surprised,” Vizoso said. “‘D you know that they have the worst health system of the entire developed world?’ one said to me. ‘Yes, I know. But I can’t stop loving that country.’”
Vizoso explained that his role in the U.S. changed from one of a “long-term tourist,” to “where the land begins to be really yours.”
One of the first things Vizoso noticed here was the amount of contradiction between different people. He blames this contradiction on the complexity of American society.
“And then the foreigner suddenly realizes the main contradiction that affects this country — the fact that, actually, there are two Americas,” Vizoso said.
He believes that one group looks at the past, priding themselves on the development of today’s America. The other group, however, looks at the future and the things that are still in progress. Vizoso says that this second group is the America that foreigners, like himself, have always thought was the only group.
He worries that this portion of America is looking so much to the future that they are losing their view of the present.
“This America says ‘we have technology; why do we need humanities?’” Vizoso said. “Science without humanities has a short walk.”
Vizoso asked the lecture audience to analyze the simple sentence, “Make America great again.” He argues that the word “again,” in this instance, is extremely important to note.
“It works with the nostalgia of many Americans,” Vizoso said. “Everyone can have a different ‘America’ in his mind, which will always be better than the present one.”
Freedom of speech, expression, religion and equal opportunity were all reasons Vizoso and many other foreigners chose to come to the U.S.
“We cannot lose those values,” Vizoso said. “Those values are what made America great.”